Valentina Sampaio is making history as the first openly transgender model for Victoria’s Secret. She took to Instagram to share a glimpse of her on set, shooting for the VS PINK line. She captioned the photo: “Backstage click @vspink,” which many fans interpreted as an announcement that she was officially working for the legacy lingerie brand.
According to CNN, Sampaio’s agent, Erio Zanon, confirmed that the Brazilian model has indeed been hired for a VSPINK campaign that will be released sometime in mid-August. Sampaio followed up her initial Insta post with a behind-the-scenes video of her serving some major looks at the shoot. “Never stop dreaming genteee,” she wrote in the caption.
The news comes at a time when Victoria’s Secret is experiencing significant shifts in its business model and brand appeal. Its annual fashion show, which drew in nearly 10 million viewers at its peak in 2013, will no longer be televised. The sparkly showcase of lingerie has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, largely due to scandals of the retailer’s own making and what appeared to be an outright policy against inclusivity.
Last year, L Brands' chief marketing officer Ed Razek revealed to Vogue that Victoria’s Secret would not consider featuring more diversity in their model cast, like plus size and transgender models. Razek said: “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”
A few days later, Razek walked back his comments on Twitter and in a statement said: “My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model in our show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings...And like many others, they didn’t make it. It was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”
While the brand has been slow to embrace diversity fully, Sampaio’s hiring is a notable step in the right direction. And hopefully, it’s a sign of more progress to come.
Refinery29 has reached out to Victoria’s Secret for comment.